Thyroid cancer symptoms
Thyroid cancer usually develops slowly, without many obvious symptoms. However, some people experience one or more of the following:
- a painless lump in the neck (the lump may grow gradually)
- trouble swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- changes to the voice, e.g. hoarseness
- swollen lymph glands (lymph nodes) in the neck (the lymph nodes may slowly grow in size over months or years).
Although a painless lump in the neck is a typical sign of thyroid cancer, thyroid lumps (nodules) are common and turn out to be benign in 90% of adults.
Having an underactive or overactive thyroid (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) is not typically a sign of thyroid cancer.
Sometimes I felt people were a little dismissive because thyroid cancer has a good outlook. They would say ‘If you’re going to get cancer, that’s the best type to get’. But I didn’t find this very helpful. Hearing the word ‘cancer’ made me feel gutted and afraid.
A/Prof Diana Learoyd, Endocrinologist, Northern Cancer Institute, and Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Gabrielle Cehic, Nuclear Medicine Physician and Oncologist, South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI), and Senior Staff Specialist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Dr Kiernan Hughes, Endocrinologist, Northern Endocrine and St Vincents Hospital, NSW; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Christine Lai, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Breast and Endocrine Surgical Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Surgery, University of Adelaide, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and The University of Western Australia, WA; Ilona Lillington, Clinical Nurse Consultant (Thyroid and Brachytherapy), Cancer Care Services, Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, QLD; Jonathan Park, Consumer.
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